Hi-ho, True Believers! This week we’re diving into new ground for me as I start reading The Incredible Hulk! I’ve never read the Hulk before, but my understanding from the 1970s TV series is that he hitchhikes a lot down desert highways, looks melancholy, and sometimes gets angry. (Also, I have been made aware that I should not make him angry because I would not like him when he’s angry.) Is this an accurate assessment of his adventures? Let’s find out!
INCREDIBLE HULK #135-137 (Jan. 1971 – Mar. 1971):
The Incredible Hulk jumps into 1971 with #135’s dramatic, Eisner-esque front cover featuring Kang (everyone’s favourite 41st Century time-traveling despot).
This time, Kang’s master plan to stop the Avengers from ever forming requires him to go to World War One and mess with the Phantom Eagle, a WWI pilot who had been seen in the Marvel Universe exactly once before. Unfortunately, there is a “time storm” around WWI (for reasons not explained) and so Kang can’t go back himself.
He needs to enlist someone else who’s strong enough to survive the storm: The Hulk. So Kang steals the Hulk and sends him back to 1917, where he is tricked into stopping the Phantom Eagle from carrying out his mission to blow up a German gun, because that gun, if left undamaged, will blow up Bruce Banner’s grandfather and then the Hulk will never happen and then the heroes will never band together to destroy the Hulk and so the Avengers will never form. The underlying problem that if the Hulk is never born then Kang won’t have anyone to send back in time is never addressed. In any case, it doesn’t matter because while the Hulk does ruin Phantom Eagle’s mission, he also blows up the German gun (because Hulk smash) and then the Hulk is whisked back to the 20th Century and Kang is tossed into the time stream to be lost in some kind of time limbo (also for reasons not explained).
The next two issues comprise a story where the Hulk is stolen by an alien named Xeron to serve as a rower on a space-boat (with oars!) so that a cosmic captain can hunt a gigantic space monster called Klaatu. That’s right—the Hulk finds himself in an intergalactic version of Moby Dick where, for some reason, the Abomination is first mate (I mean, it’s explained, but it doesn’t make any sense). The Abomination tries to kill The Hulk, the aliens try to kill Klaatu, and the story ends with Klaatu and Captain Cybor drifting off into the sun and The Hulk and The Abomination drifting back into Earth’s atmosphere, where they become shooting stars. Awww, pretty.
One of the comic shops in my hometown during my youth was called Xeron Comics. I never got the reference before. Guys, you named your shop after this chucklehead?
AVENGERS #84-87 (Jan. 1971 – Apr. 1971):
Avengers #84 is a relatively unremarkable issue where the Black Knight tries to get rid of his magic sword that he fears is controlling him and ends up in a showdown with the Avengers against Arkon and the Enchantress, however it does give John Buscema the chance to illustrate an issue with men swinging swords, a subject he takes great pleasure in and which shows in the quality of his art.
Don’t worry, John—you’ll get to draw all the shirtless barbarians you want soon enough.
At the beginning of the next issue, Thor attempts to magic them back to Earth from Arkon’s realm. The Black Knight arrives back in England safely and Thor and Black Panther are deposited in New York, but the rest of the team finds themselves on an alternate Earth where they don’t exist and instead have been replaced by the Squadron Supreme (an analogue for DC’s Justice League and also almost an exact copy of the Squadron Sinister, an evil version of the same group that the Avengers had previously tangled with on yet another alternate Earth, and if this is starting to sound needlessly complicated, well, wait until the X-Men start dabbling in time travel).
Anyway, there is the obligatory Misunderstanding Fight, but once they get that out of the way they realize that their true enemy is… Brain-Child! … a super-intelligent ten-year-old who wants to wipe out every living thing on the planet because (wait for it) people made fun of his giant head.
Brain-Child attempts to outsmart the combined might of the Avengers & the Squadron with his traps, but they knock him unconscious and as the Vision explains:
And then, for some reason he turns back into a normal boy with a normal intelligence and normal sized brain right before Thor, Iron Man and Black Panther transport the rest of the Avengers back to our Earth. Did they win? They certainly seemed to, but that doesn’t stop the Vision from having an existential crisis in an easy chair.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #93-95 (Feb. 1971 – Apr. 1971):
Following the arrest of Sam Bullit, Pete intends to confess to Gwen to confess that he’s Spider-Man and tell her how much he loves her, however, just as he arrives at her house, the Prowler attacks! The Prowler, who can’t shake the feeling he’s been manipulated into being an accomplice to Captain Stacy’s death at Spider-Man’s hand, tries to get a confession but Spidey beats him into unconsciousness and leaves him at the hospital. Then, heading back to Gwen’s house, he discovers that IN THE HOUR PETER WAS FIGHTING THE PROWLER, GWEN HAS LEFT FOR LONDON TO STAY WITH RELATIVES AND FOUND SOMEONE TO SUBLET HER APARTMENT.
Despondent that he never got to confess his feelings for his girlfriend, Peter wanders the city and thinks about all of the drama that Spider-Man has brought to his life with a NINE PAGE SADBOY RECAP SEQUENCE. Look, I know you’re bummed that your girlfriend left you, Petey, but omg deal. Nine pages is WAY too much.
Peter wanders sadly to Aunt May’s house at which point the Beetle shows up across the street to rob A GODDAMN CANDY STORE. Like, it’s the middle of the day—THEY’RE PROBABLY OPEN—and he just barges in through the front window smashing everything. HE DOESN’T EVEN TAKE ANYTHING. YOU ARE A SHITTY CRIMINAL, BEETLE. A SHITTY CRIMINAL.
Meanwhile, Peter has a nap at Aunt May’s and while he’s sleeping Aunt May gets herself captured by the Beetle and ends up being used as a hostage in a showdown with police. See, it turns out the Beetle’s ingenious plan was to break into EVERY SINGLE BUSINESS ON THE BLOCK because ONE OF THEM backed onto the vault of an importing company BUT HE DIDN’T KNOW WHICH ONE. YOU ARE A SHITTY CRIMINAL, BEETLE. A SHITTY CRIMINAL. (In fact, he’s so shitty a criminal that he’s captured a couple of pages later and Aunt May is fine.)
Peter, still despondent about Gwen and trying to figure out a way to make it to England to talk to her, stops by the Daily Bugle offices where Robbie agrees to underwrite Peter’s trip as long as Peter brings back some pictures for the paper. Pete catches a flight to London (even though he has no idea where Gwen is) and upon landing is immediately forced to save an American delegate and his son from terrorists.
When the press gets wind of it, he makes newspaper headlines, forcing him to a shocking revelation: “Now that all England knows that Spider-Man is here, how can Peter Parker go to visit Gwen? She’d be certain to suspect!” EVEN THOUGH COMING CLEAN ABOUT YOUR SECRET IDENTITY IS PART OF THE REASON YOU WENT THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. Then we see Gwen, who says, “If only Peter were here. I hoped—and prayed—he’d love me enough to come after me.” EVEN THOUGH YOU DIDN’T TELL HIM WHERE YOU WERE. And then Peter decides to go home and is like “She never even wrote! She’s probably forgotten me.” BITCH, IT’S BEEN LIKE THREE DAYS.
AD OF THE WEEK:
Prepare for a high pay job in drafting like this straight-up serial killer!
T’Challa leaves his spoor for other Wakandans to follow!